Pest experts are one step closer to eradicating ‘world’s worst invaders’ on Maui

Nahiku was once home to Maui's largest infestation, potentially containing several million queens and several billion worker ants.
Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 6:28 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 28, 2022 at 6:51 PM HST
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NAHIKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui Invasive Species Committee is slowly but surely winning a grueling fight against Little Fire Ants.

MISC has managed to shrink the island’s largest infestation in Nahiku by partnering with helicopter pilots to attack the tiny invasive ants from above.

“It can serve as a model for what other islands here in the state can do,” said MISC Invasive Ant Supervisor Brooke Mahnken. “We’ve actually spoken to people from Guam and the international community is interested in our success, to replicate what we’re doing here on Maui.”

Nahiku’s infestation potentially contained several million queen ants and several billion worker ants.

The product MISC sprays from the sky is an insect growth regulator. It is a mixture of water, vegetable oil, beef liver powder, and xanthan gum. It works as birth control for the queen.

“Little Fire Ants are miserable little stinging pests that form super colonies and can infest acres and hundreds of acres. They rain out of trees, they sting people, they can sting pets’ eyes, cause blindness in animals, miserable to harvest agriculture,” Mahnken said.

“People have abandoned ancestral lands due to Little Fire Ants. They’re a real pest. They’re one of the world’s worst invaders.”

MISC recently completed a massive survey where 34 people collected more than 5,000 samples throughout 175 acres in Nahiku over the course of three weeks.

“I’m extremely pleased with over 5,000 samples, we only collected a handful of samples that contain Little Fire Ants, less than five samples had Little Fire Ants. So what was once Maui’s largest infestation is now one of Maui’s smallest infestations,” said Mahnken.

MISC is continuing to treat the area, but expect the ants to be entirely wiped out from the place by next year.

“We have a demonstrated track record of success eradicating Little Fire Ants in large and small infestations and that’s what we would like to continue doing,” Mahnken said.

There are five eradicated Little Fire Ant site and eight active sites on Maui.

MISC is monitoring six sites, meaning no ants are currently detected. MISC monitors for five years before deeming a site eradicated.

Anyone can help MISC with the fight for eradication. All you need is a chopstick and some peanut butter.

To learn more, click here.

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